Body signals: what does the desire to eat sweet, spicy or salty mean

We understand why some people dream of a meringue cake, while others are ready to sell their soul for hot sauce (spoiler — it’s not about food habits at all).

Сигналы тела: о чем говорит желание съесть сладкое, острое или соленое

Today, the world is experiencing the human body with a huge number of gastronomic temptations, which are sometimes almost impossible to resist. However, a sharp desire to eat something salty, spicy or sweet can not always be attributed to a successful advertising move. Often, the causes of certain taste desires should be sought within one’s own body. All the details of this difficult issue were sorted out together with the nutritionist of the European Medical Center Olga Galeeva.

Why can’t we eat the same thing?

The desire to eat sweet, salty or spicy reflects our desire for diversity, no matter how strange it may sound.  For a person, the food that has a specific combination of sensory impressions will be attractive.  Such combinations are called a “bouquet” by food industry experts.  For example, the tastes of chocolate, pepper or coffee are a combination of five basic tastes and accompanying olfactory and tactile sensations.

Like the sense of smell, the sense of taste refers to chemical types of sensitivity. A person is able to distinguish five primary taste sensations: sour, sweet, bitter, salty and umami (“meat”).  A number of scientists also distinguish the taste of “water”.

Taste sensitivity depends on geographical, ethnic, genetic, sexual and psychophysiological factors.  In general, this explains the taste preferences of different peoples of the world. And only one factor is characteristic of all populations — stress.

Сигналы тела: о чем говорит желание съесть сладкое, острое или соленое

How does stress affect taste?

Psychoemotional stress causes activation of the sympathoadrenal system and an increase in the need for “fast” energy sources, such as glucose. This partly explains the craving for sweets. When consuming sweet and fatty foods, not only the areas of the brain associated with hunger and thirst are stimulated, but also the pleasure center. That’s why ice cream always makes us happier.

A number of studies have established the relationship between the thresholds of taste sensitivity and the level of psycho-emotional stress of the body. With an increase in tension, there is a decrease in the thresholds of taste sensitivity: in men – to sweet and salty, in women – to all four stimuli. 

Taste and emotions — how are they related?

There is a strong connection between taste and emotions, which most likely arises due to connections between the hypothalamus and the limbic system. Sweet causes pleasant sensations, bitter is tasteless even for children. Taste sensations affect the emotional background and well – being of a person .

Poor taste experience narrows our consciousness: striving for sweet, salty or spicy, we unconsciously want to experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment. Thus, the aesthetics of food and gastronomic diversity provide our psychological comfort.

Taste desires and disorders in the body — what is known about them?

There are times when we want something specific: nuts, chocolate, vegetables, fruits, etc. But as soon as we begin to satisfy our taste desires, we begin to notice that over time we no longer want what we dreamed of before. This means that the body is saturated with the necessary elements and no longer needs them in such quantity.

Сигналы тела: о чем говорит желание съесть сладкое, острое или соленое

The desire to eat nuts indicates a lack of vitamin E, which is found in large quantities in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts. During menopause or during the premenstrual cycle, women often want chocolate, and in large quantities. This may signal the presence of dishormonal disorders. The craving for salty food occurs not only in pregnant women, as a common statement says. If you really want salty foods, this may indicate an increased level of stress. At such moments , the body especially needs minerals and salts .

There are situations when a person has a desire to eat something inedible, for example, chalk. In this case, it is necessary to contact a specialist who will conduct an examination and identify the cause of such a craving. Sometimes the occurrence of such desires provokes anemia, and sometimes a lack of iron. In this case, you should not rely on common practices — if there are changes in taste preferences that you do not understand, the best solution will be an individual consultation with a specialist.

Nutritionist of the European Medical Center.

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